The key to running a successful agency is to utilise relevant tools and software to manage and automate as many areas of the business as possible, enabling you to focus on the needs of each of your clients. Having great tools in place to help you and your senior team manage areas such as operations, resourcing, CRM and reporting will free up your team to focus on adding value for your clients.
In this post, I’ve put together a list of tools and technology to help you out in areas that are essential in ensuring your agency runs smoothly, so that you can stay focused on your customers.
There are multiple ways of managing files within an agency, but the priorities for any agency owner must be ease of access, security and simple file syncing options.
Google Drive (and Docs) is built for collaboration, which makes it the perfect fit for agency working. Whenever a change is made to a file on Google Drive, the previous version is automatically updated, so everyone is accessing the latest version no matter whether you’re accessing it from your iPhone or PC:
With Google Drive, your entire agency can also share folders internally or with external clients or contacts while maintaining administrative control themselves:
Of course, you will want to ensure you consider adding an extra layer of security as there will no doubt be client-sensitive information contained within some of the files. Google has this covered via a range of options including:
If you want to revert to a previous version or undelete a file, you can easily do this in Google Drive or in any Google doc:
You can also restore deleted files via the Google Drive admin console.
Customer relationship management is crucial to running a successful agency. As your agency grows, you’ll need a robust system that will help you to manage data relating to previous, existing and potential clients.
At Hallam, we have utilised a project management tool called Podio to build a customised CRM & Project Management workspace that our entire company can access. This space allows us to manage client data, contacts at each organisation we have on record, track client projects, billable and non-billable hours, request resources from multiple areas of the business and create mailing lists from the data we have on record to hook up with Mailchimp.
As a digital agency, you need to keep a close eye on how you and your team spend, bill, and manage time. Podio allows you to build custom apps to track this data and associate it to other apps via the use of relationship fields and automated workflows. For example, all of our client projects link up with apps such as billable hours, non-billable hours and financial forecasts. This ensures we have everything related to each project accessible in a single place:
Like a lot of agencies, we started with an Excel spreadsheet to track hours, which can obviously be quite time-consuming (and often painful) to maintain accurate data, especially as we have grown. For anyone still using this approach I would strongly encourage you to test out customisable tools such as Podio which will enable you to mould a system to the needs of your business.
Every agency needs to manage client projects, and there are a number of simple project management tools that can significantly increase your employees’ ability to get work done quickly.
Using Basecamp gives you full transparency, working away from email and in clearly visible workspaces which clients can be added to. That being said, there can be a clear separation between “agency side” and “client side” in Basecamp which enables seamless but safe communication that’s visible to agency managers.
One of the huge benefits of Basecamp is that it’s vastly simpler than most other project management systems. We trialled using Podio for clients by creating individual client workspaces and almost all clients found it hard to understand, including those that are tech savvy. Basecamp essentially means that clients just have to respond to an email for everyone to get visibility over the discussion.
In my experience, it’s an excellent tool for collaborating with clients, getting sign-off on various tasks and tracking client communication. You can even hook Basecamp up with CRM systems (such as Podio) via Zapier, enabling agencies to maintain a single customer view.
Knowing the capacity of your workforce is at the core of managing your projects and enabling your sales team to successfully bring in new clients.
Beyond just having visibility into projects and their associated billable hours, it’s important for agency owners to understand:
Your team and their time are your most important assets, so it’s up to you and your project managers to ensure they’re focusing their attention on the right projects and tasks. Finding software that enables you to have a clear view of staff availability and utilisation can help manage workloads and empower recruitment decisions.
In my opinion this information should be captured in any agency CRM system, which for us means it’s captured within Podio. There are then a number of third-party tools which can help extract and visualise data from most popular CRM or agency management systems.
One tool which I can highly recommend for this purpose is Highcharts. Highcharts allows us to extract data from Podio and visualise it in a range of customisable graphs to report on areas such as utilisation and capacity and split it up by individual, team, department across a variety of date ranges.
We also use Highcharts to report on our business KPIs in our monthly senior management team meetings, again extracting the data from our CRM system and visualising it using Highcharts.
If you’re already collecting data in these areas then why not give Highcharts a try to see if it could help you better track performance across your agency?
We have in the past used Google sheets for all of our client reporting by hooking it up to extract and display our client’s Google Analytics data.
This solution delivered huge time savings vs. pulling manual reports, while allowing us to set up highly customisable analytics dashboards for each of our clients, providing them with a concise overview of their performance at all times which is automatically updated each month.
You can read more about how to set this up here.
6. Social Media Management: Sendible
If social media is part of your agency’s offering, the right social media management tool can make all the difference. Gone are the days when your team has to log in to each social media platform on weekend to post for a client, roam the Internet to find the perfect content, and create/send reports manually.
Sendible is the feature-rich social media tool built primarily for growing agencies. Sendible is on a mission to help agencies tell authentic stories on social media, making them look good in front of their clients.
Sendible’s agency team collaboration tools are some of the best in the industry. From one main account, you can add multiple users to your dashboard, set up a user hierarchy that works for your team, assign conversations to the relevant team member to respond to, and even ensure that every post is approved by the correct person before being scheduled. Working collectively as a team in Sendible ensures the work your agency is producing is on point for your customers’ needs.
The tool even helps you save time on admin by delivering great-looking, branded PDF reports to your clients via email, with an optional cover page that introduces the report. You can also set the frequency of these emails to meet your clients’ expectations to offer an even higher level of service.
Some of Sendible’s features include:
As an agency, sometimes you may wonder how to cut back on the time spent on different tasks like maintaining your data feeds while surpassing your competition. Optimized product feeds are the foundation of any successful PPC campaign. And standing out in a competitive digital landscape is a must in order to reach sales objectives.
Using a feed management solution like DataFeedWatch allows agencies to create fully optimized product feeds based on existing data. Optimized listings help increase sales on multiple channels, and can help prevent you from advertising out-of-stock products.
This post has covered a few essential tools we use to manage our marketing agency. There are of course plenty of other tools that we use as an agency to help our management team keep the business running smoothly.
We’d love to hear from other agency owners and managers about the tools you’re using to help manage your agency – please use the comments section below.
Ben Wood is Marketing Services Director at Hallam. Ben has worked in digital marketing for over 8 years and gained client side experience at a blue chip corporation before moving to a high growth digital agency in 2012.
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